Is The Big Easy The Right Landing Spot For NPOY Big Edey?

Few prospects I can remember are as polarizing as Purdue center Zach Edey. Some scouts view the back-to-back National Player of the Year as a top pick in a weaker draft while others don’t have him in the first round. With as wide a range as any prospect in this draft, Edey seems squarely in play for the Pelicans at 21 if they want to draft a long-term replacement at the center position.

Edey’s generationally dominant interior scoring is his premier trait, bludgeoning defenders in the post and in the lane. Standing at 7’4 with a 7’10 wingspan, few NBA bigs will have the size and girth to match Edey inside. Edey shot a monstrous 79.6% at the rim with an NCAA-leading 113 dunks. He’s a foul-drawing machine, posting an absurd 80.9 free-throw rate on 79.6% at the line. Simply put, nobody could slow down Edey. 

What will Edey do offensively outside the paint? We know he can score with post touches, but those won’t come as frequently on a Zion Williamson team. He’s an excellent screener with solid passing vision and will thrive in the pick-and-roll game. Edey’s passing against doubles in the post is solid, but there isn’t much else there, and Edey doesn’t space the floor.

Defensively, Edey’s translation to the league will be a swing for his eventual outcome. In the NCAA with a shrunken floor, Edey parked at the hoop and acted as a wall (6.9% block rate). He stonewalls defenders in the post as his enormous size and length are difficult to shoot over. Edey’s positioning is stout and his mobility took big strides throughout his college career, hopefully allowing him to play farther out of the paint.

That mobility will be key for him; if teams can lure him out of the paint and target him, Edey’s value will be much lower. This is especially the case for a sometimes interior defensively challenged Pelicans team, who felt the effects of another slower center in Jonas Valanciunas. New Orleans struggled to contain high-powered pick-and-roll attacks this year, which Edey’s lack of speed and fluidity may not fix.

Team fit will be the major deciding factor for the Pels drafting Edey. In some ways, he’s similar to Valanciunas: strong post scorer and solid interior defender with perimeter limitations. If Edey develops a jumper as reliable as Valanciunas’s, he could become an impactful scorer. The question, then, is whether or not the Pelicans want another center in the Valanciunas mold, assuming they choose to move on from him this Summer.

If they do, Edey could be a decent choice. There will likely be options with higher ceilings like Yves Missi and possibly Kel’el Ware, which the Pelicans may want – given their past limitations. Regardless, Edey’s career will be as fascinating as anyone in this year’s draft.

Analysis by Ben Pfeifer

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